Have you ever shopped online and wished you could physically download the items you’re browsing to see how they look in the real world?
Well, now you can.
Augmented Reality (AR for short) is taking the eCommerce world by storm. Much like how virtual reality headsets allow people to enjoy an immersive gaming experience, augmented reality offers online shoppers an immersive shopping experience from the comfort of their own home.
Keep reading as we explore how AR impacts the future of eCommerce for both customers and brands.
Augmented reality is an interactive experience where computer-generated digital elements reside in the real world. These digital elements can span across visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory and olfactory stimuli to create multi-sensory engagement.
What differentiates augmented reality from virtual reality (VR) is the presence of computer-generated stimuli in the real world. By contrast, VR only exists in the virtual world, meaning it enhances a fictional reality.
In VR, the user is given the impression that they exist in another reality. In AR, the user is given the impression that virtual stimuli exist in the real world.
AR is dependent on data collection and analysis. The collected data is then used to create an immersive experience where the digital elements are perceived as part of the real-world environment.
eCommerce brands can use AR to promote their products and services, increase customer purchases, launch marketing campaigns, and collect unique customer data. But what does this mean for shoppers?
For eCommerce stores, AR is bridging the gap between the personalized experience customers feel in a physical store, and their online shopping experience. With options such as virtual try-ons, filters on social media, and placement previews, the immersive AR experience allows customers to experience and preview products or services in the comfort of their own homes. This experience also assists customers in choosing the right product for them the first time around, thus helping to reduce returns and improve customer satisfaction.
Brands have several options to incorporate AR into their online shopping journey. These include recreating the in-store experience, or allowing people to try things at home through interactive elements.
Retail Perceptions found that 71% of shoppers would shop at a retailer more often if they offered augmented reality, and 40% of shoppers said they would be willing to pay more for a product if they could experience it through AR.
When shopping online, it’s estimated shoppers return 70% of the clothes they order. An augmented reality tool could help these shoppers make better-informed decisions by giving them the option to see how that particular clothing item looks. Trying on clothes virtually can result in fewer clothing returns from online shoppers.
In 2020, online retailer ASOS tested an AR feature allowing shoppers to see what clothing items would look like on different-sized models. According to the reactions on Twitter, this inclusive sizing AR feature received a positive response from online shoppers. One Twitter user stated, “This is so long overdue,” and another one responded to the tweet saying, “Such a good idea!”
Another Twitter user asked people what they thought of AR for online shopping. In response, one user exclaimed she “[w]ould love to try this!” Another said they liked it when it actually works, but sometimes found it glitchy. This user went on to explain how AR had “sealed the deal” for some of their home furnishing and DIY purchases.
Not all shoppers are optimistic about AR in eCommerce. On Reddit, some shoppers are skeptical of the power of AR in retail. When one user shared a Forbes article about the release of a “virtual dress,” responses were less than favorable. In response to the article, a Reddit user called the virtual dress a “novelty.” Another responded by saying, “I don’t see this taking off, at least for a while.”
If anything, these reactions showcase the importance of brands understanding their audience and making sure their AR technology appeals to their customers.
As we can see, AR for online shopping is still in its early days and appears to have a mixed reaction from online shoppers. Getting AR right, however, could help brands to stand out from their competitors.
Recent research found that 52% of retailers feel ill-prepared to support emerging mobile tech such as artificial intelligence, chatbots and augmented reality. By getting to grips with these new technologies, retailers could transform their customer experience and give their brand a competitive edge. In turn, this could lead to higher sales and increased customer satisfaction.
One study found that the use of virtual fitting rooms on retail websites increased the likelihood of online shoppers’ curiosity in the product, intention to patronize and their intention to purchase. This shows how brands can use AR to increase both online and offline conversions.
Commenting on the launch of Snap’s new machine learning technology to create real-life virtual try-ons, Carolina Arguelles, said that this new technology is focused on “improving the realism of these experiences and how natural it feels to interact with them.”
When trying Snap’s new virtual try-on technology, brands like Dior have already seen a 6.2x return on ad spend (ROAS). This suggests that the AR technology is successful at encouraging users to try the AR feature and go on to make purchases afterwards.
More and more retailers are reaping the benefits of using AR for their online shopping experiences.
The eCommerce platform Shopify recently announced that they had purchased Primer – an augmented reality app that allows users to digitally preview tile, wallpaper, and paint changes at home. Shopify purchased this AR app with the intention of rolling it out to Shopify users. This AR roll-out will let Shopify retailers enhance their online shopping experience by giving shoppers the opportunity to virtually interact with products before making a purchase.
Furniture giants, IKEA, released an AR app called IKEA Place that lets online shoppers virtually “place” IKEA products in their home. This AR app is great for allowing shoppers to check products are the right size, design, style and functionality for their home before they click to buy.
In the fashion space, eyewear company Karün, offers a virtual try-on experience that lets online shoppers try different glasses online to see how they suit their face before buying.
AR isn’t just limited to showing shoppers products, either. It can also be used to create a community or experience.
Reebok used AR to create an interactive experience for children and teenagers. Reebok’s AR tool lets kids and teens create makeshift basketball courts wherever they are, using environmental features such as walls, fences, parking lots and alleyways. As part of a larger “Courting Greatness” campaign, this app addresses the accessibility issues of urban spaces. This creative campaign is a great use of AR for marketing and brand awareness purposes.
Similarly, LEGO also uses AR technology to create immersive experiences for customers. The LEGO Hidden Side sets let children combine physical and digital play by scanning colored disks in each play set with an interactive app on their phone or tablet. This app allows children to turn their physical toys into digital games that they can either play alone or with up to three friends.
In 2021, Walmart.com acquired Zeekit, a virtual fitting room platform, to expand their AR offerings.
In 2022, they announced they’ve integrated Zeekit with the Walmart app and Walmart.com, starting with a Choose My Model experience.
According to the Walmart announcement, the feature offers the ability to select from 50 models between 5’2” – 6’0” in height and sizes XS – XXXL.
“Customers can determine the model who best represents their height, body shape and skin tone to understand how an item will look on them. And we will continue to expand our model selection, with nearly 70 additional model options launching in the weeks ahead to offer an even wider range of sizes, skin tones and hair colors.” – Denise Incandela, Walmart Launches Zeekit Virtual Fitting Room Technology
It is evident that AR is taking the online shopping world by storm.
If your brand wants to attract new customers, keep them engaged, and turn them into life-long brand advocates, you should be investing in new technologies and applications.
You should always be innovating your services and customer offerings to remain at the forefront of your industry. Augmented reality is just one way to increase customer interest and purchases for your brand.
At MyFBAPrep, we assist online retailers with Amazon FBA prep, direct-to-consumer fulfillment, kitting and bundling, and more. We are constantly innovating to provide the best experience for eCommerce sellers and their customers.
Published: August 24, 2021
Updated: March 7, 2022